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Flashcards in Hard Times Deck (31):

Exam Strategy

Themes - mechanisation, fact v fancy, femininity, love/lust, moral/immoral, expose dehumanisation of utiliterianism/political economy

The Form-

satire - the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices, particularly in the context of contemporary politics and other topical issues - analyse quotation

and caricature - a picture, description, or imitation of a person in which certain striking characteristics are exaggerated in order to create a comic or grotesque effect - analyse quotation



The Utilitarians were one of the targets of this novel. Utilitarianism was a prevalent school of thought during this period, its founders being Jeremy Bentham and James Mill, father to political theorist John Stuart Mill. Theoretical Utilitarian ethics hold that promotion of general social welfare is the ultimate goal for the individual and society in general: "the greatest amount of happiness for the greatest number of people." Dickens believed that in practical terms, the pursuit of a totally rationalised society (based on or in accordance with reason or logic.) could lead to great misery.


Utilitarianism II

The principle was modified – not just ‘happiness’ but ‘quantitative’ happiness, which implies judgement of quality - & guess who did the judging? Yup, the ones in power, so we came pretty much full-circle.


Political Economy

Political economy was the original term used for studying production and trade, and their relations with law, custom, and government, as well as with the distribution of national income and wealth. Political economy originated in moral philosophy (ethics...utilitarianism?)


Dickens view on Political Economy

IN AN essay in his popular magazine, Household Words, Charles Dickens issued a challenge to economists to humanise their discipline. “Political economy is a mere skeleton unless it has a little human covering and filling out,” he wrote in the inaugural issue in 1854. “A little human bloom upon it, and a little human warmth in it.”

Sleary's - 'Folks can't be allwayth working thouqire they mutht be amuthe'. Paraphrase - express the meaning of (Dicken's thoughts) in different words



Themes Mechanisation

The Opposition Between Fact and Fancy

The Importance of Femininity

Morality and immorality


Themes 1 Mechanisation

Hard Times suggests that nineteenth-century England’s overzealous adoption of industrialization threatens to turn human beings into machines by thwarting the development of their emotions and imaginations. This suggestion comes forth largely through the actions of Gradgrind and his follower, Bounderby: as the former educates the young children of his family and his school in the ways of fact, the latter treats the workers in his factory as emotionless objects that are easily exploited for his own self-interest. In Chapter 5 of the first book, the narrator draws a parallel between the factory Hands and the Gradgrind children—both lead monotonous, uniform existences, untouched by pleasure. Consequently, their fantasies and feelings are dulled, and they become almost mechanical themselves.


Themes 1 Mechanisation 2

The mechanizing effects of industrialization are compounded by Mr. Gradgrind’s philosophy of rational self-interest. Mr. Gradgrind believes that human nature can be measured, quantified, and governed entirely by rational rules. Indeed, his school attempts to turn children into little machines that behave according to such rules. Dickens’s primary goal in Hard Times is to illustrate the dangers of allowing humans to become like machines, suggesting that without compassion and imagination, life would be unbearable. Indeed, Louisa feels precisely this suffering when she returns to her father’s house and tells him that something has been missing in her life, so much so that she finds herself in an unhappy marriage and may be in love with someone else. While she does not actually behave in a dishonorable way, since she stops her interaction with Harthouse before she has a socially ruinous affair with him, Louisa realizes that her life is unbearable and that she must do something drastic for her own survival. Appealing to her father with the utmost honesty, Louisa is able to make him realize and admit that his philosophies on life and methods of child rearing are to blame for Louisa’s detachment from others


Themes - The Opposition Between Fact and Fancy 1

While Mr. Gradgrind insists that his children should always stick to the facts, Hard Times not only suggests that fancy is as important as fact, but it continually calls into question the difference between fact and fancy. Dickens suggests that what constitutes so-called fact is a matter of perspective or opinion. For example, Bounderby believes that factory employees are lazy good-for-nothings who expect to be fed “from a golden spoon.” The Hands, in contrast, see themselves as hardworking and as unfairly exploited by their employers. These sets of facts cannot be reconciled because they depend upon perspective. While Bounderby declares that “[w]hat is called Taste is only another name for Fact,” Dickens implies that fact is a question of taste or personal belief. As a novelist, Dickens is naturally interested in illustrating that fiction cannot be excluded from a fact-filled, mechanical society.


Themes - The Opposition Between Fact and Fancy 2

Gradgrind’s children, however, grow up in an environment where all flights of fancy are discouraged, and they end up with serious social dysfunctions as a result. Tom becomes a hedonist who has little regard for others, while Louisa remains unable to connect with others even though she has the desire to do so. On the other hand, Sissy, who grew up with the circus, constantly indulges in the fancy forbidden to the Gradgrinds, and lovingly raises Louisa and Tom’s sister in a way more complete than the upbringing of either of the older siblings. Just as fiction cannot be excluded from fact, fact is also necessary for a balanced life. If Gradgrind had not adopted her, Sissy would have no guidance, and her future might be precarious. As a result, the youngest Gradgrind daughter, raised both by the factual Gradgrind and the fanciful Sissy, represents the best of both worlds.


Themes - The Importance of Femininity

During the Victorian era, women were commonly associated with supposedly feminine traits like compassion, moral purity, and emotional sensitivity. Hard Times suggests that because they possess these traits, women can counteract the mechanizing effects of industrialization. For instance, when Stephen feels depressed about the monotony of his life as a factory worker, Rachael’s gentle fortitude inspires him to keep going. He sums up her virtues by referring to her as his guiding angel. Similarly, Sissy introduces love into the Gradgrind household, ultimately teaching Louisa how to recognize her emotions. Indeed, Dickens suggests that Mr. Gradgrind’s philosophy of self-interest and calculating rationality has prevented Louisa from developing her natural feminine traits. Perhaps Mrs. Gradgrind’s inability to exercise her femininity allows Gradgrind to overemphasize the importance of fact in the rearing of his children. On his part, Bounderby ensures that his rigidity will remain untouched since he marries the cold, emotionless product of Mr. and Mrs. Gradgrind’s marriage. Through the various female characters in the novel, Dickens suggests that feminine compassion is necessary to restore social harmony.



Louisa lacks - Therefore her emotional side is barren

Sissy has - a comfort to Louisa and balance to Jane

Rachel has - a comfort and support to Stephen Blackpool

Mrs Gradgrind has lost - Gradgrind grinds out with facts


Fact/Fancy Oppositions


Reason / imagination
Stone Lodge / Circus
Gradgrind / Sleary
Coketown / nature
Bitzer / Sissy
Wander / wonder
Statistics / humane reality


Moral/Immoral Oppositions


Love / lust
Education /indoctrination
Natural / unnatural
Truth / lies
Blackpool / Bounderby
Workers / capitalists


Hard Times for These Times - What is it?

A social problem novel, a dialogue between art (in this case the novel) and society

Published 1854' had appeared in Dickens' journal 'Household Words'

Social but not as 'realism' - things as they actually are, as Gaskill's novels e.g. Mary Barton, definitely not Austin's romanticism

Uses satire - irony, ridicule to expose stupidity and vices

Masculine narrative voice, draws on Shakespeare for authority e.g. 'Familiar in their mouth as household words' - Henry Vo


FORM - Satire

satire - the use of humour, irony, exaggeration, or ridicule to expose and criticize people's stupidity or vices,


FORM - Caricature

caricature - a picture, description, or imitation of a person in which certain striking characteristics are exaggerated in order to create a comic or grotesque effect.



In the Introduction to your edition of the novel, Kate Flint says the book ‘resists labels and categorization’(xi). This is not exactly true. Above all, the book is a SATIRE, that is it exposes the truth through exaggeration. ‘Fact’ is revealed as a nightmarish delusion according to which those with power, eg. Gradgrind, late of the ‘wholesale hardware trade’ and prospective MP, misrepresent the world around them to themselves and others to confirm their own delusions. The opening scene, set in a Factory School, has Gradgrind instructing his schoolmaster, McChoakumshild (satirical convention of naming exposing the underlying reality – indoctrination – pouring ‘facts’ in, not education, leading children out) to ‘Teach these boys and girls nothing but Facts’. In Ch. 2, Sissy is thrown when asked to ‘define’ a horse so the answer has to be provided by that triumph of the educational system, Bitzer, ‘Quadruped. Gramniverous. Forty teeth…’, a definition impeccably ‘factual’ which succeeds only in reducing the noble animals to lifeless objects of scientific interest.


What is it II

Dialogic - novel that creates dialogue between different points of view (many voices) rather than a single monological (monologue) I.e. In the form of a dialogue

A Polyphonic Novel (producing many sounds simultainiously) an agglomeration from many voices rather than one...philosopher or politician

Didactic - Intended to teach



Severely workful, a caricature of an industrial town

Mad melancholy elephant

A triumph of fact, walls like the painted face of a savage

The Black ladder for bodies


Thomas Gradgrind Snr

Louisa Gradgrind

Thomas Gradgrind Jnr

Mrs Gradgrind

Daughters and sons

TG-Retired businessman, politician and would-be educationalist basing his entire educational theory completely on 'facts' devoid of any imagination or emotionally inclined content

LG-His daughter brought up under his draconian theory, distant,emotionally compromised, deprived of fancy and imagination, almost an automation

TG Jnr-The spoilt whelp (A boy/young man deserving of contempt), conniving, lazy, hedonist out for himself

Mrs G- A confused, physically and mentally weak subservient character who fades and eventually dies as the story progresses

Daughter Jane, sons Adam Smith and Malthus, Jane influenced by Sissy who turns out relatively normal


Josiah Bounderby

Cecilia Jupe ( Sissy)


Mrs Sparsit

B-A pompous, disingenuous self- made Buffon

C-A waif from a travelling circus whose father has deserted her

Bi-a scheming, grovelling, self seeking lackey, product of TG's school

S-A beldame of good breeding fallen on hard times and desirous of Bounderbay's financial support and possibly even marriage


Mr Sleary

Mr Childers

Master Kidderminster

Stephen Blackpool


The Old Woman

Mr Choakunchild

S-The lisping circus owner

C-a worldly wise horse performer

K-A dwarfish contemptuous of pompous authority horse performer

B-A poor but honest weaver he evokes pathos in the reader

R-The love of Blackpool's life

OW-Bounderbay's mother whose existence has been kept secret

CK-A teacher turned out by a system or wrote


James Harthouse


HHS-A gentleman and rake

SB -A brash, conniving union organiser, official of the United Agregate Tribunal



The 19th Century Novel

A place where labour has a repetitious invariability, monotonous work by itself makes people unhappy

Lots of plotting and a 'tying together' resolution at the end, though not a happy one in this case

Having several meanings in play within makes reading the text more interesting- Hard Times the dialogue between the novel and society


Character construct

Dickens uses the characters' names to describe and illustrate them, e.g. Gradgrind, Sparsit, Bitzer, says what they are

The climax and conclusion - Louisa's collapse, Gradgrind's realisation of failure, Sparsit thwarted, Bounderbay outed, Stephen's death - no pleasant resolution


Orwell's Comment

…in every page of his work one can see a consciousness that society is wrong somewhere
at the root’. That root, in Dickens’s novels, is poisoned by the moral disease of the selfish pursuit
of wealth which creates class barriers between man and man.
George Orwell


Analogy between Industrialisation and Rural Life






* Have ready in advance a little statement about the themes & pop that down.
* In reading the given extract note :

Characters & how they relate to themes

Nature of the dialogue between them

Does any character dominate?

Are there adjectives & adverbs providing a certain 'colour' to character(s)' speech?

Select 3 examples to analyse

* DO NOT : Use long quotations (abbreviate)
Replicate or describe what is said in the extract


Suggestions II

In Hard Times, predominantly a satire used by Dickens to expose the delusions and hypocrisies of mistaken 'Utilitarian' thinking and the system of political economy, both quoting 'statistics' in their support, we see the resultant world of 'Fact' juxtaposed to the circus-world of 'Fancy' and the unnatural to the natural.



Published 1854